Writing tips from Gabriel García Márquez | Sunday Observer

Writing tips from Gabriel García Márquez

20 February, 2022

Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez is considered one of the greatest masters of Magical Realism. His novel ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude’ published in 1967 is a fine example for this literary movement.

Though he was a journalist by profession, he could produce the world’s best novels of the twentieth century. As he says, his source of inspiration was his grandmother, yet when writing fiction he did nothing, but following his grandmother’s style of storytelling. Since his magical realistic writing style inspired generations of writers around the world, it is important to learn his art of writing.

Following are his writing tips for aspiring writers. They were caught from his Paris Review interview done by Peter H. Stone.

Write about something that happened to you

“If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him.

It’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told.

Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says: “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes from the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”

Literature is nothing but carpentry

“Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved. And as Proust, I think, said, it takes ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. I never have done any carpentry but it’s the job I admire most, especially because you can never find anyone to do it for you.”

Character is a collage

“In every novel, the character is a collage, a collage of different characters that you’ve known, heard about or read about.”

Be careful when portraying reality

“The writer’s very attempt to portray reality often leads him to a distorted view of it. In trying to transpose reality he can end up losing contact with it, in an ivory tower, as they say. Journalism is a very good guard against that. That’s why I have always tried to keep on doing journalism, because it keeps me in contact with the real world, particularly political journalism and politics”.

You need extraordinary discipline “I don’t think you can write a book that’s worth anything without extraordinary discipline.”

“One thing that Hemingway wrote that greatly impressed me was that writing for him was like boxing. He took care of his health and his well-being. Faulkner had a reputation of being a drunkard, but in every interview that he gave he said that it was impossible to write one line when drunk. Hemingway said this too. Bad readers have asked me if I was drugged when I wrote some of my works. But that illustrates that they don’t know anything about literature or drugs. To be a good writer you have to be absolutely lucid at every moment of writing, and in good health.

I’m very much against the romantic concept of writing which maintains that the act of writing is a sacrifice, and that the worse the economic conditions or the emotional state, the better the writing. I think you have to be in a very good emotional and physical state. Literary creation for me requires good health, and the lost generation understood this. They were people who loved life.”

Do your job to your own satisfaction

“I think that writing is very difficult, but so is any job carefully executed. What is a privilege, however, is to do a job to your own satisfaction. I think that I’m excessively demanding of myself and others because I cannot tolerate errors.

I think that it is a privilege to do anything to a perfect degree. It is true though that writers are often megalomaniacs and they consider themselves to be the centre of the universe and society’s conscience. But what I most admire is something well done.”

Find the right theme

“ I’m convinced that there is a special state of mind in which you can write with great ease and things just flow. All the pretexts—such as the one where you can only write at home—disappear. That moment and that state of mind seem to come when you have found the right theme and the right ways of treating it. And it has to be something you really like, too, because there is no worse job than doing something you don’t like.”

First paragraph is paramount

“One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily. In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone.

At least in my case, the first paragraph is a kind of sample of what the rest of the book is going to be. That’s why writing a book of short stories is much more difficult than writing a novel. Every time you write a short story, you have to begin all over again”.

Significance of inspiration and intuition “Inspiration is when you find the right theme, one which you really like; that makes the work much easier. Intuition, which is also fundamental to writing fiction, is a special quality which helps you to decipher what is real without needing scientific knowledge, or any other special kind of learning.

The laws of gravity can be figured out much more easily with intuition than anything else. It’s a way of having experience without having to struggle through it.

For a novelist, intuition is essential. Basically it’s contrary to intellectualism, which is probably the thing that I detest most in the world—in the sense that the real world is turned into a kind of immovable theory. Intuition has the advantage that either it is, or it isn’t. You don’t struggle to try to put a round peg into a square hole.”

Do not give attention to critics

“Critics for me are the biggest example of what intellectualism is. First of all, they have a theory of what a writer should be. They try to get the writer to fit their model, and if he doesn’t fit, they still try to get him in by force.

I really have no interest in what critics think of me, nor have I read critics in many years. They have claimed for themselves the task of being intermediaries between the author and the reader. I’ve always tried to be a very clear and precise writer, trying to reach the reader directly without having to go through the critic.”

Do not seek fame

“Unfortunately many young writers are more concerned with fame than with their own work. These young writers are wasting their time writing to critics rather than working on their own writing. It’s much more important to write than to be written about. One thing that I think was very important about my literary career was that until

I was forty years old, I never got one cent of author’s royalties, though I had five books published.” “I would have liked for my books to have been recognised posthumously, at least in capitalist countries, where you turn into a kind of merchandise.”